All posts by Vertti Luostarinen

What Finnishness means to me

I believe that national identity is a discoruse that binds us to a fictional heritage and a narrative that is constructed as a mental barrier between ”us” and ”them”. As individuals we can never escape this discourse but have a certain degree of freedom inside it to carve out our own national identity. As a Finn I have a certain margin of freedom to constitute my own Finnishness, and here I attempt to do just that.

Finnishness means Welfare

As a nation we have gone through both the greatest famine and the bloodiest civil war in European history. In spite of this, we are looked upon today as a model nation that strives towards the equal well being of its citizens. I truly feel privileged to have been part of this period in our history. But I also claim that the progress that has been achieved in just a few generations can be undone even faster. This is an era where the painful awareness of what has been the cost of building this ivory tower of mass-consumption is echoed in every level of our society. The idea that we are on the verge of an ecological catastrophe is both unattainable and unavoidably clear at the same time.

The fact that welfare is something that I have always taken for granted has been reflected in my goals in life. My  pursuit is not the pursuit of happiness but that of meaning and self-expression. Financial or physical security and issues regarding my health rarely cross my mind and seldom affect my prioritization in life.

Finnishness means Freedom

With a Finnish passport I can travel to almost everywhere with relative ease. A Finnish nationality means that I am free from many prejudices and cultural stigmas that restrict the lives of so many others. As a traveller this means also that sometimes I can feel more protected than the locals. If something were to happen to me, I would be sent back to Finland almost immediately.

A Finnish identity also comes with responsibilities that have an ideological basis I don´t always agree with. It is hard not to get a feeling of being siphoned through my education as quickly as possible so that I can get to work – and more importantly – consuming. What my government pays for me now it expects to get back with interest, and as soon as possible. This is made clear by both the media and my educators, who press that steady employment is to be valued above everything else when considering our futures.

Finnishness means language

Language is often mistaken as almost as some technical invention used to communicate the world to others. We forget that our world is the language and that we are not the users of language but instead our language is using us.

The Finnish language has manifested itself through me in various interesting forms through the years and for me maybe the biggest part of my Finnish identity is continuously functioning as its vessel. I have always been fascinated by the intricacies of our language, its accents, anecdotes and unique peculiarities. My search for words (or better still, the words´ search for me) has led me to this path that I have chosen and the field that I am currently studying. As a screenwriter I can work towards formulating ideas that haven´t been expressed before. And the ultimate paradox of this profession is that the resulting film can never be reduced back to it´s origins on the page. So at the end, my search for words is a search for something that cannot be said.